Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by The Welfare Association


  The Welfare Association is grateful for the opportunity to put its views on record concerning the priorities of UK Development Assistance to Palestine as a means to strengthen the infrastructure of Palestinian development.

  The Welfare Association has been working with the Palestinian civil society in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon since 1983 in developing human resources, institutional building, supporting the preservation of culture and heritage in the Old City of Jerusalem and other historic cities, and also in the field of emergency and relief whenever the need arose, implementing medical, educational, social and humanitarian emergency assistance and creating employment opportunities disbursing more than $125 million dollars to over 400 beneficiary agencies/NGOs over the past 20 years, with $30 million to be disbursed in the year 2003 alone.


  The peace process, a baby that was born in an Oslo maternity clinic in September 1993, was supported by so many countries acting as obstetricians, midwives, and paediatricians—of which the UK was a major advocate and supporter. The baby, having recently received major injuries as a result of a dominant and muscular father battering a desperate mother in an attempt to obtain total submission, is currently in an intensive care incubator and on a life-support machine, unable to breathe without major assistance.

  The American consultant paediatric surgeon, who is the only one with abilities to operate on and save the baby's life, is currently engaged in major reconstructive surgery in Iraq (with the British nurse wiping his continuously sweating forehead) and therefore his hands are currently completely tied.

  So as the killing, injuring and disabling of relatively large numbers of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza—the vast majority of which are innocent civilians—take place on a daily basis, the unemployment rate has climbed over 50%, reaching around 80% in areas such as Rafah (Gaza), the poverty reached a new unseen height by World Bank standards, access to schools and universities by the student population as well as teachers has been immensely hampered by more than 300+ check points all over the West Bank and complete absolute closures on Gaza as well as many West Bank cities and towns supported by a planned 700 km wall that will create cantons and Bantustans of open major prisons. At the same time, the Palestinian National Authority is collapsing under tremendous external military and economic pressure that causes internal rifts and disagreements in how to respond. The educational, health, social, and cultural services have become stretched to the limit in order to cope with the immense demands by the ever increasing numbers of the poor and vulnerable in Palestinian society and, at the same time, the sewage, water, roads, electricity and other infrastructure and houses are being demolished, destroyed or damaged. Moreover, the vulnerable groups of society (women, children, elderly, sick, disabled) have been suffering even further.

  As all of the above human tragedies and disasters are taking place at the same time, what are the priorities for UK aid through bilateral and multilateral channels that may, if implemented, first and foremost sustain and maintain Palestinian minimal existence in the West Bank and Gaza as well as develop the Palestinian society in terms of infrastructure, human resources and institutional building?


  The Welfare Association has identified the following six areas to be considered by the Select Committee as the main priorities for UK DfID aid in the medium term:

1.   Human resource development

  The field of human resource development is vast and varied and the needs are immense but from The Welfare Association's point of view, the most important can be summarised as follows:

  1.1  Development of infrastructure (building, renovation, IT and internet, libraries etc), methods (curriculum, equipment, technological and IT aids, materials, books etc) and quality (teacher training, quality control) to ensure the improvement in access, quality and quantity in formal and non-formal education to cover pre-schools, nurseries and KGs, primary and secondary schools, vocational education/training institutions; colleges and universities as well non-formal education establishments including children development centres, cultural and sports clubs, women's institutions etc.

  1.2  Training children and youth on the use of IT as a tool to achieve further knowledge, skills and therefore new opportunities for employability as well to gain accessibility for further knowledge and learning across the check points and closures. This would be achieved through the systematic introduction of computers and other IT hardware and software to KGs, schools, colleges, vocational training and cyber/knowledge centres as well as improving IT training curricula and training of teachers and youth on programming, using of software as a tool for advanced design and exploration, networking, etc.

  1.3  Dealing with emerging youth issues, especially school leavers or drop-outs and offering them a way out the desperation and gloom that they face, see and feel everyday of their lives through increasing their awareness, tolerance, cooperative attitudes, societal values and other life skills. This could be achieved through the infrastructural and programmatic development of sports clubs, youth cultural and social clubs, scouts clubs etc as well as promotion of certain team sports or similar activities.

2.   Employment Generation

  This issue must be seen as a priority as it combines community development aspects with provision of desperately needed jobs in the short- and medium-terms for thousands of unemployed workers. Such employment generation can be in the following fields:

  2.1  Building, renovation or expansion of new KGs, schools, colleges and university buildings to meet the ever increasing population (current population increase amounts to 3.5% a year) which means that around 100 new KGs and schools are needed every year in the coming five years.

  2.2  Building, expansion and/or renovation of community centres and social, cultural and sports clubs especially those serving the vulnerable groups such as the physically and mentally disabled and the old as well as socially deprived groups including women, children and youth.

  2.3  Rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by the Israeli re-occupation of towns and villages or expanding them to meet the demands of the increasing population such as roads, electrical, water and sewage networks.

  2.4  Repair of houses of innocent civilians and public buildings damaged through the recent re-invasion and continuous bombardment by the Israeli army.

3.   Preservation of Cultural and Religious heritage

  In times of war and unrest, one of the first casualties is the historic sites and monuments in Palestine that represent the most significant Christian and Islamic heritage and even from earlier times. Such sites are situated mainly in the old city of Jerusalem and its surroundings, Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron, Jericho and many other sites. More significantly is that, in certain cities, the old historic sites are still inhabited by people which makes them into living historical monuments rather than just historic sites such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron. Such preservation activities may take the following developmental tracks:

  3.1  Preservation and restoration of Historic sites Jerusalem, Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron.

  3.2  Rehabilitation and restoration of historic homes, centres and other monuments damaged mainly in Nablus, but also in Bethlehem and Hebron.

  3.3  Development of community awareness programs for the preservation of historic sites.

  3.4  Development of databases for the documentation of historic sites.

  3.5  Development of training schemes for contractors, engineers and skilled labor in preservation, restoration and traditional handicrafts and materials used in restoration.

4.   Micro-credit to support private sector sustainability and initiatives

  There is a dire need in Palestine amongst many sub-sectors within the private sector for obtaining of small short- to medium-term loans given at concessionary rates and/or favourable terms so as to facilitate the starting of new initiatives, expansion of old businesses and/or for other matters that are vital to the development and future security of Palestinians especially to businesswomen initiatives. Such loans are needed in the fields of:

  4.1   Industry and industrial manufacturing.

  4.2  Provision of essential services (health, education, etc).

  4.3  Information Technology.

  4.4  Student loans.

  4.5  Building of houses or office block/industrial units.

5.   Institutional building within Palestinian Civil Society

  Developing of civil society and its institutions is of prime concern to the Welfare Association. The Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza (and also within Israel) is very rich with its civil and voluntary non-governmental institutions borne out of need during 35+ years of Israeli occupation. Today, over 500 serious NGOs continue to provide essential services for the community and complementing PA services in the fields of health and disability, formal and nom-formal education, culture, social and community services, human and citizens rights, democracy and civil functions etc.

  These NGOs need support in the following fields:

  5.1  Institutional and capacity building in order to provide effective and efficient services to the poor and marginalized.

  5.2  Supporting development projects run by NGOs in the health, educational, cultural and social fields.

  5.3  Development and implementation of laws and regulations governing NGOs especially with regards to public responsibility and complementation with government services.

  5.4  Development and support for an NGO resource foundation/centre that supports NGOs in building their capacities and working within laws and regulations and promotion of best practice amongst them.

6.   Developing and Supporting institutions in East Jerusalem

  In 1968, and in contravention of UN resolutions and international law, Israel annexed the occupied city of East Jerusalem and applied its on laws to it, giving its citizens the status of "permanent residents" rather than any type of citizenship as a way to address the issue of annexing the land but not the people. At the same time, Israel waged a clandestine war against the civil institutions of East Jerusalem denying them assistance, staff, clients and funding in an effort to ensure their closure or their ineffectiveness in providing their services, even recently closing some of them under the pretext of dealing with the PA. As such, East Jerusalem residents especially those who hold the orange ID (West Bank residents) rather than the blue ID (Jerusalem residents) suffer from lack of quality and under-funding in many sectors, especially education, social and welfare services and other rights they are entitled to including the right to choose to be treated (educated) in an Arab rather than a Israeli hospital (or school).

  Therefore, there is an important need to support the 300,00 people that reside in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods in the following areas:

  6.1  Development of infrastructure and service support to Palestinian-based hospitals and other health facilities such as Makassed, Augusta Victoria, St John and Red Crescent hospitals and princess Basma Centre for Disabled Children.

  6.2  Development and support of infrastructure and service provision to non-governmental non-profit schools (such as St George's, Husni Al-Ashhab, Rosary Sisters, etc), vocational training centres and colleges (Orphans and Industrial schools) and university (Al-Quds University).

  6.3  Development and support of youth sports and cultural centres and activities especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.

  6.4  Development and support a network of citizen's rights and advice bureaus to help tax-paying individuals in accessing their rights in the fields health, education, social welfare, building permits and against land confiscation, illegal tax burden, denial of residency rights and other abuses of human rights.

7.   Supporting Development for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

  This is considered by The Welfare Association as an important priority area for UK aid. The estimated 250,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon are a particularly disadvantaged community. In addition to their original loss of homes and flight to Lebanon more than 50 years ago, their difficult situation has been compounded by unstable residency in Lebanon, periods of violence from internal and external wars and general instability affecting the area. Lebanon has restricted the absorption of Palestinians and legally regards refugees as "foreigners" which prevents them from benefiting from the rights of citizens to health, education and social services, as well as to unrestricted movement. UNRWA provides only the most basic health and education services to registered refugees and seriously under-serve actual needs: for example, there is only one UNRWA-run youth centre and one community rehabilitation centre serving all of the 12 camps.

  Five per cent of children aged one to three are malnourished (cf less than 1% in Jordan's camps) and another 4% are "vulnerable" children (cf 2% in Jordan's camps). One in five refugees reports suffering from a chronic illness and 1 in 5 takes medicine for psychological distress.

  Educational level is low and illiteracy is high among those aged 15 and older; 21% of children aged 7-18 have never been enrolled in school. Significantly, there is high non-enrolment among the young, especially males after age 11, and a high drop-out rate. De-motivation is cited as the chief reason for dropping out of school in the lower levels, displaced by economic reasons in importance at higher educational levels. UNRWA provides basic education but NGOs and private schools, and some government schools, are the only sources of secondary education; only 10% of men and 7% of women complete the secondary level.

  With regards to employment, refugees are formally blocked from participating in most of the better employment sectors, and are required to obtain work permits even for menial labour. Seventy per cent of Palestinian households in Lebanon are in the two lowest income brackets, compared to only 20% of Lebanese. No Palestinian households are in the highest income brackets.

  Proportionately Lebanon camps also have the highest percentage of social hardship cases (11% of the population), which UNRWA attributes to the fact of their low level of socio-economic integration in the country, compared to only 3% in Jordan where integration is the highest.

  In particular, Palestinian refugee youth are increasingly disaffected, and find that the systems that are available to serve them are so inadequate or discriminatory that large numbers are no longer actively seeking education or employment. Without alternative systems in place, their ability to contribute to their own future and to the welfare of their community is lost or sorely compromised. These youth soon become hopeless and are forced to be dependent on already economically strained households.

  The following priorities for development of Palestinians refugees in Lebanon have been identified by The Welfare Association:

  7.1  Development of disability centres working within the refugee camps with particular emphasis on children and youth, including building, supplying of specialized educational and medical equipment and material; training trainers and workers supporting education and awareness of disabled and families, adaptation of certain sections of disabled home (toilet, kitchen ) etc.

  7.2  Development of early childhood education in the camps through active learning by developing and expanding KGs, supplying them with educational equipment and materials, training of trainers and teachers and upgrading of curriculum.

  7.3  Development of vocational training courses and activities, including upgrading of infrastructure and facilities, provision of educational equipment and material, training of trainers and teachers, development of curriculum and supporting poor students with scholarship and loans.

  7.4  Development of non-profit health facilities and hospitals providing with the refugee population in order to cope with their primary and secondary needs.

  7.5  Development of micro-credit schemes in the fields of cottage industries, industrial workshops and other small ventures as well as student loans to study and improve employability.

September 2003

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